Last Updated on August 23, 2023 by Practical Cooks
Meatballs. Spicy or sweet, Swedish or Italian. There is no denying they are delicious. They are the perfect accompaniment to pasta, great in a sandwich, and even as a dainty appetizer.
One thing that can ruin all of that, is an undercooked meatball. But does a little pink inside the meatball mean it’s not OK to eat?
Can the meatball be a little pink inside? Yes. According to the USDA, meatballs (and other ground beef delights) can be pink inside and still safe to eat after they are cooked. As the agency states, “doneness and safety cannot be judged by color.”
You should use a meat thermometer to make sure the ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
The ground beef may still be pink inside due to a reaction to myoglobin (a naturally occurring protein) and the heat from cooking. The pink hue can also occur when the meat is cooked alongside certain veggies.
Is It OK To Eat Uncooked Meatballs?
While it’s perfectly safe to eat meatballs with a little pink inside them, you should not eat uncooked meatballs. They can be a source of E. coli, bacteria that can make you sick.
Deep frying your meatballs for 9 minutes or oven-baking them for at least 20 minutes can reduce E.coli levels significantly.
How Do I Know If My Meatballs Are Cooked?
Some folks will prod and poke at their meatballs with forks and knives to check if they are cooked. This defeats the purpose of “the ball”, and one might as well just make a hamburger helper.
The easiest way is to get yourself an easy-read thermometer. A quick stick and a reading of 160 degrees is a finished meatball.
If you don’t have a thermometer, a quick trick is to stick a knife or cake tester all the way to the middle. Leave it for 10 seconds and carefully pull it out. Touch the tip gently with your fingertips.
If it’s barely warm, the meatball is not done. If it’s warmer than is comfortable, the meatball is done.
You can also place them in boiling water. If they sink, they are not done. If they float to the top, they are done.
How Can I Cook The Inside Of A Meatball Properly?
Whether you are adding meatballs to the sauce or making them to stand alone, old-style chefs swear by frying them first. It’s not a good idea to add raw meatballs to your sauce, as bacteria from them could spread to the sauce.
Fry them about halfway through, then add them to your sauce. If you are oven-baking them, you can also fry them halfway before popping them in. This will help maintain their juiciness.
Can I Use A Slow Cooker To Cook My Meatballs?
Please do! Some of the most delicious meatballs ever have been made in the slow cooker. Of course, it is a matter of preference.
If you want soft and tender meatballs (with no splattering and standing over a hot stove), then give the slow cooker a try. If you like your meatballs crispy, then stick the pan or the oven.
How Long Should You Cook Meatballs?
How long your meatballs take to cook will depend on how big you make them. 1-1/2 inch round meatballs will take about 20 to 25 minutes in the oven, (at 360 degrees), after they have browned in a pan.
If you’re going to drop them in the sauce after browning, they should be done in about 20 minutes. But they will be fine to leave to simmer for a few hours.
Can You Cook Meatballs Too Long?
Indeed, you can cook meatballs too long. While it’s important to cook them all the way through, you don’t want to overcook them. In the sauce, they will become mushy and fall apart. In a pan or oven they will become dry, burnt, and tasteless.
Can You Freeze Meatballs?
Both cooked and uncooked meatballs will freeze very well if done properly. You can just throw them in a bag and toss them in the freezer.
The best way is to place them on a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Space them apart so they are not touching. Freeze them for 2 to 4 hours.
This will make sure they don’t stick together when bagged.
When they are frozen through, place them in a freezer bag or container and label. They will stay fresh for 2 months.
How Long Will Meatballs Last In The Fridge?
Meatballs that are uncooked will last about 2 days in the refrigerator. Cooked meatballs will last between 3-5 days. Always check your refrigerated meatballs for a strange smell or discoloration before eating them.
What Are Some Ways To Fully Cook Meatballs, But Keep Them Moist?
It can be tricky to ensure fully cooked meatballs, while at the same time keeping them juicy.
Here are a few tips for achieving that balance:
1. Use equal amounts of ground pork and ground chuck. Anything else can make them dry.
2. Whip the egg in a separate bowl and then add them to your mix.
3. Use fresh breadcrumbs instead of boxed.
4. Add some ricotta or cottage cheese. Just a few teaspoons will do.
5. Add some ketchup. Believe it or not, ketchup is an excellent ingredient for moist meatballs. It will also give them a subtle tasty tang.